“There really not a guiding principle – that I was able to discern apart from – what is good for Donald Trump’s re-election.
“Now, look, you can’t get politics out of politics. It plays a role in every aspect of decision making in the executive branch. But There is no coherent basis, no strategy, no philosophy. AND decisions are made in a very scattered way, especially in the life-threatening field of national security policy. This is a danger to the republic. “
“Most people are surprised by the way I work. I play it very weakly. I don’t carry a briefcase. I try not to schedule too many meetings. I leave my door open. You can’t be imaginative or enterprising if I have too much structure. I prefer to come to work every day and see what unfolds. “
This who is, and always has been. You don’t have a plan, not for the day, week, or month. There is no broad strategy. It simply acts or, more often, reacts. Your belief system and what you care about is deeply flexible. You can think one thing in the morning and another, the opposite at lunchtime.
Their much less well when that approach is used to address national security and geopolitics. Because while the stakes for Trump’s business are primarily financial, the stakes at the White House are often life or death. As Bolton said to Raddatz: “This is a danger to the Republic.”
And we don’t even need to take Bolton’s word for the lack of rhyme or reason for Trump’s focus in these critical areas. We can see it for ourselves.
“I think he was so focused on re-election that longer-term considerations were on the way. So if you thought you might get a shot with Kim Jong Un in the DMZ in Korea, or you thought you could get a meeting with Iran’s ayatollahs at the United Nations, that there was considerable emphasis on photo-taking and the reaction of the press and little or no focus on what such meetings did to the negotiating position of the United States, the strength that our allies saw or did not see in our position, their confidence that we knew what we were doing, and I think it became very clear to foreign leaders: that they were dealing with a president who just wasn’t serious about many of these issues, to the detriment of us as a country. “
Trump’s summit with Vladimir Putin, in which Trump infamously said that the Russian president had denied meddling in the 2016 election, follows the same pattern. Desperate to take pictures of himself looking powerful and a great man in history, Trump has no plan to know why the meeting should take place or what he specifically needs to get out of it.
Because it is focused on itself, not on the country. Because he has spent a lifetime doing things to get media attention and coverage, the positive or negative didn’t really matter. His life has been a series of decisions based on the seat of the pants, guided by an unwavering faith and not fully demonstrated in himself and his judgment.
Which, again, is fine if you’re running a company under your name. Much less if you are the head of a country that, well, does not have your name. And when your fast-twitch decision-making has reverberations that will last long after you’re president.
The most important thing Bolton’s memory reveals is that Trump does not understand the difference between how he runs his business and how someone has to run a country. Making peace as it progresses could be fine for the Trump empire. But it is potentially disastrous for the American experiment.